We recently had an experience flying where Baby A was known on the flight as the good child.
First and foremost, my child has her moments. In fact as I type this she’s having a snack with her father and throwing food on the floor. Because her drink wasn’t given in the cup she wanted. The closer she gets to two, the more she is most certainly not good.
Anyway, this other family on the flight? The family that we were very wrongly compared to? The not good ones? Ugh. To that family, I am so sorry. I am sorry people are so judgmental and cruel, and I really hope you will fly again with your little family.
The bad child was part of a family of 4 sitting in the row opposite us – a mom, dad, infant, and toddler around Baby A’s age. This family was told they couldn’t sit together, because they had 2 lap children, which isn’t allowed in the same row for oxygen mask purposes. The dad and toddler switched seats with the lady behind them. He sat with the toddler in an aisle seat, and the mom sat with the infant in the row in front of them, in the middle seat.
The toddler wanted mom, but she got dad. They switched children on and off, which never lasted long, because mom needed to care for the infant. When the toddler screamed bloody murder, dad tried to feed her, and then propped an iPad in front of them. Neither worked. The kid was restless, and did not want to be confined to her dad’s lap. So a few times she plopped herself right in the middle of the aisle and had a meltdown. And at one point she screamed and screamed until she vomited. Right in the center aisle of the plane.
The passengers around us started yelling at this family, to the point where the mother began to cry. It then became, why didn’t you buy a seat for your child, like THEM (they pointed to us). Or toys? Look how good she’s behaving. Look at all her activities! Look at her in her own seat!
And, oh dear people, get a grip!
Because once my toddler woke up, it was a task and a half to entertain her. Did you know she knocked my glasses off five times and I annoyingly had to bother the person sitting behind us every time? But it’s how, in that moment, what stopped her from also having a meltdown.
And the fact that she didn’t start screaming bloody murder quite a few times during this very delayed and very slow flight was pure luck. So let’s stop judging. It could have so easily been my kid too. Or yours.
It’s unfortunate, and sure, gross that this toddler vomited in the middle of the plane, but honestly, we don’t know that family’s situation. It was a full flight. Maybe they tried to get the toddler her own seat, but couldn’t? Maybe they got bumped onto this flight from another? I mean, come on, we were all grouchy and super delayed. Maybe they had to get somewhere quickly, and didn’t have time to plan activities for the course of the flight? Or maybe this was their very first time flying with their kids, and they figured, hey it’s allowed for them to be on my lap, so why not? Or maybe this kid was just being a kid.
The passengers on this flight were brutal, and I sympathized with this family so much, because again, it could have so easily been my kid having a meltdown, and my goodness: to the other people on this flight, it could have been your kid too! Let’s not forget that. I really hope it didn’t turn this family off from traveling with their kids again.
Toddler meltdowns, on and off planes are going to happen. I hate to say it, but I’ve seem some pretty gross adult behaviors on airplanes too, so let’s all think about that before we are so quick to snap judgements on others…
I get asked pretty often for travel advice. Especially when it comes to traveling with a baby/toddler. But honestly, toddlers are big balls of emotions. There’s no magical cure to traveling with them. People say don’t do it, but I say DO.
Distraction is your best bet, and if you keep on reading I’ll list my favorite activities that I’ve gotten and used time and time again. But keep in mind, sometimes – most of the time… It’s just luck. Sometimes you’re going to have an amazing flight, and other times you’re just not.
My answer is never an iPad, because I think it’s distracting to those around you, and when a toddler gets truly restless, they want to be active and doing something, not merely plopped in front of a device to let their energy continue to ball up until they reach their bursting point. That’s like the point of no return, and then you’re sunk.
So while there’s no magical cure, here are some tips that often help us travel a little more smoothly. Sometimes.
- Buy a Seat. Just do it. It’s SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE for the both of you. No matter the age of the baby/toddler. Take a carseat, pop them into it, and just like in a car, let them be. Having the extra space, we’ve learned, is by far worth it, and this is coming from someone whose kid is not amazing in a car seat. It’s been a lifesaver, though. Really. I know it’s tempting to save the money/points, but I cannot stress how worth it having the additional seat is.
- TSA rules are a little different when you’re traveling with children. You’re allowed to bring a lot more with you as far as liquids and their sizes go. Be prepared for it to take a little longer as you go through security. Pack all liquids in a separate bag, because it makes it much easier. But PACK IT. It’s better to have than not. Some airports check baby wipes and some don’t, so keep that in mind when you’re sorting bags. I think it’s important to leave extra time, because a flustered adult often leads to a flustered kid, and why fuel the fire?
- Fly as close to nap time as possible. We joke, because on every flight we’ve taken with Baby A on, she’s missed take off every single time. We have so many videos of her trying not to close her eyes, but just as the plane’s wheels lift off the ground sleep wins. It’s pure luck, and she never stays sleeping the entire flight. I’m going to say the bits of sleep we’ve had is because we fly close to nap time, so that’s helped a lot. Other times, we just make sure she’s had a lot of activity prior to boarding, so she can’t help but be tired. I’d rather a five minute meltdown over being so tired she needs to sleep (and then does), vs. any other type of meltdown. While we take the stroller to the gate, we hardly ever have her sit in it. Which brings me to…
- Tire them out at the gate. I can’t tell you how many times we parked ourselves at the gate and one of us takes her around, in search of moving walkaways, escalators, etc.
- Bring plenty of drinks and snacks on the plane for those just in case scenarios, but try to handle all major meals before flying. A hunger meltdown is way worse than a tired one. For us anyway. If the flight is so long where it falls over a meal time, obviously feed on the plane, but try to have a full stomach before boarding. Again, this allows for less I’m hungry meltdowns, which are THE WORST (for us). Usually if Baby A gets upset, taking out some cheerios or animal crackers is a pretty magical cure. A chocolate treat for those “break glass in case of emergency” meltdowns is always packed as well!
- A lot of people ask about diaper changes on the plane. Most planes have a changing station in the bathroom, but we try to keep her in the seat. A huge plus to a baby have their own seat is that, especially for a pee diaper, is you can just change and swipe a diaper out quickly. We bring bags with us to put the soiled diaper in, and it’s so seamless I don’t even think twice about it anymore.
- When they come around with drinks, ask for some extra cups. It provides endless entertainment. I mean there’s the stacking, chewing, squishing, pretending to drink, pretending your toy/stuffed animal is drinking, pretending it’s a hat, etc. It’s the cheapest and most wonderful entertainment you’ll get.
- Distracting Games/Songs. These always work like a charm. Include things like stretching your arms up high, kicking your feet (rear facing car seat only so you don’t kick the person in front of you), interactive songs, like its bitsy spider, wheels on the bus, etc, or simply talking about where you’re going, who you’re going to see, what you’re going to do, who’s still at home, etc.
- Post-It Notes. Such a silly thing that provides endless entertainment. Bring them and you’ll thank me later.
- Okay, lastly, these are some of my favorite activities that we’ve purchased and brought with us on the plane…
- Melissa & Doug K’s Kids Take Along Shape Sorter
It’s a little bulky, I’ll admit. But on one side is a shape sorter and the other has fun lift the flaps. It’s also comes in a great carry case. It’s a huge hit both on and now off the plane.
- Melissa & Doug Take Along Play Mats
There’s a fun town one and a zoo one. They open up which is great to place on the lap, and really easy to when their in their car seat. It also comes with soft animals/vehicles, depending on which one you get.
- AquaDoodle, Travel Doodle
If you get nothing else off this list, get this. You place some water inside the marker thing and that’s it. It doesn’t stain if you get it on your hands. Best of all, there’s no paper or anything. After a bit it fades, creating a brand new canvas.
- Buckle Toy Mini
I don’t know a child who isn’t obsessed with buckling things.
- Plane books
We have a few Karen Katz lift the flap books, which are a huge hit, so a travel-related one was perfect. But the Airplane Flight book. Oh my goodness. She always asks to read it again and again. It’s also a life the flap book, and she gets a kick out of it because she’s on an airplane too!
- Reusable Stickers
We’re obsessed with stickers. Reusable ones for the win. There are many to choose from. We get them on Amazon and have even seen them at HomeGoods.
- Disney Mickey Mouse Magnetic Zoo
Super travel friendly, and comes with different scenes all in one tin case that’s perfect for traveling.
I’m always open to hearing about anything that makes traveling with a baby/toddler easier, so if you have/know of something that I didn’t mention shoot me an e-mail!